wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

I’m not crazy cos I take the right pills…

Something controversial on the agenda today, (nope not Simon Cowell’s love child.) I’d like to talk about medication.This topic tends to divide both the public and professionals alike. Should those who suffer with mental conditions rely on prescription medication, or is it better to let the body deal with it naturally?

Finding the right treatment path for anxiety can be a very stressful and frustrating experience, because there are multiple options. Unlike a headache you can’t just take a ‘one off’ tablet and have a lie down. Treatment takes time and there are numerous avenues to explore.

Healthcare professionals have contrasting opinions in regards to medication. The majority of GP doctors are pro drugs, because of the statistical success rates. General anti-depressants are favoured. Naturalists suggest herbal remedies which don’t work and exercise to combat mental disorders. Physiatrists often believe that a combination of drugs and talking therapy is best.

I do a bit of everything, I’m a treatment junkie!

Ok, I’ll be honest from the start…  I’m pro medication and I have been taking it daily for the last fourteen months. It wasn’t a smooth process for me and involved lots of trial and error before I saw results. Here’s a quick history:

Beta Blockers – Good for relieving physical symptoms such as blushing and tremors but didn’t reduce my internal anxiety. However, lots of people take these before interviews as they reduce the amount of adrenalin in your blood and help to prevent the heart from racing.
Mirtazapine – An SSRI drug (will explain later.) Did not agree with my body. It made me feel genuinely suicidal, which was terrifying. After six days the doctor took me off it.
Sertralin – A different SSRI. Perfect for me. I take 50mg daily.

The favoured medications administered by doctors are called; Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Serotonin is a chemical that the body should create naturally, it helps to relay signals throughout the brain (neurotransmitters.) So basically it sends important messages to the brain such as; Everything is okthere’s no need to be nervousyou can feel happy today. However, people who suffer with anxiety or depression often have very low levels of Serotonin in their bodies, (that explains a lot huh?!) It makes feel like a car without petrol!
SSRI medication is effectively artificial Serotonin and in my experience can be very effective.
On the other hand, please don’t be mistaken.. This drug will not rid you of all anxious and depressive thoughts (if only.) But what it will do however, is give your nerves a rest and your mood a boost. It makes mental conditions easier to deal with.
Like most medications SSRIs have listed side-affects, so please be sure to discuss these with your doctor. I experienced various side-affects in the first 72 hours. The most dominant were; tiredness, aching limbs and nausea. However, these were fleeting as my body was just adjusting to the new chemical.
It also takes time for the medication to get into your system, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t instantly feel better. It took eight days before I noticed a change in my mood. It was subtle, but I could feel the difference.

The other medication that I take when absolutely necessary is Zimovane. This belongs to the same family as Beta-Blockers (Benzodiazepines), but it works in a different way. Zimovane is a sedative and if I were to use a planet earth name rather than the space age jargon that only medical staff can understand… then I would say it’s a ‘sleeping tablet.’
To my knowledge, most people run a mile when sleeping tablets are mentioned. There’s a great deal of stigma attached. On the one hand, I completely appreciate that a person might be wary of something that will essentially knock them out. I also accept that others may worry about becoming dependent on them. Nevertheless, I don’t think that someone suffering from insomnia will share this view! When I was at my worst I was living off three hours sleep a night. My anxiety would wake me up with a shock and I couldn’t get back to sleep. Naturally my nervous system was completely shot, as I wasn’t getting the rest that I needed. Herbal sleeping aids didn’t work and neither did Nytol. However, Zimovane helped me to get back into a routine and I can now sleep easily without them. To put this in perspective, my doctor only prescribed fourteen tablets and advised that I should break them in half. It’s about using your common sense I suppose.
Sleepers are certainly not a long term solution and should be used with care, but I wouldn’t judge anyone for taking them when needed.Talk to your doctor for more details.

Recently, I’ve been doing some research in regards to vitamins that can improve mental health. In my opinion, vitamins could never be a replacement for prescription meds, but they can certainly help. Vitamin B Complex is one listed time and again. Vitamin D is also mentioned frequently (basically sunshine in a pill.)  Guess who’ll be making a trip to Holland and Barrett’s later…?

To summarise, there are multiple avenues of treatment for anxiety. Today I have focused on medication, but CBT, good diet and exercise are all valuable. It’s important to find the right path for you and don’t be ashamed to quiz your doctor before accepting his or her opinion.

I can tell you something though… wine works better than Camomile tea!

Categories: Anxiety

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5 replies

  1. I’ve been on 20mg Citalopram since January after things came to a bit of a head, and it’s properly saved my arse. I must have an incredibly perceptive GP too as this particular dosage/SSRI has worked perfectly first time. As well as arresting the physical symptoms of anxiety, it’s allowed me to get a sense of clarity and perspective on the world and I’m definitely functioning 1 million% better.

    However, everybody speaks of the two-week adjustment period: for me it was five weeks.

    – week 1: intense fatigue, and one day of euphoria like being a bit pissed.
    – week 2-4: depression and suicidality. Now I know what depression is really like, and the suicidality was a very curious and bizarre thing because of how completely comfortable I was with it. It wasn’t frightening because the rational part of me knew this phase would pass, which it did, disappearing almost literally overnight, which was also bizarre.

    After 5 weeks the adjustment period ended and I felt the Citalopram starting to work properly, and I’d describe the effect they have as being similar to how buttresses support the walls of a cathedral. The only two permanent side-effects left are extremely vivid dreams, and the total and complete inability to have an orgasm…

    That’s a price worth paying for now.

    • Mate, I’m no doctor but those side affects sound extreme. As soon as a medicine makes you feel suicidal you should go straight back to your GP!
      It probably took 5 weeks because you’re on a lower dosage.Also, side affects are supposed to be temporary, the fact that you’re still experiencing them could signal that your body hasn’t fully accepted the medication.
      Citalopram is the most common SSRI that GPs dish out. They’re the ‘bog standard, tends to suit most people’ drug. But, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. There are so many different options.
      However, it’s your body at the end of the day and I could be talking complete rubbish. If it makes you feel better and more secure then that’s great.

      • That’s interesting, I didn’t know Citalopram was a “beginners” tablet. I should clarify: the depression/suicidality thing was what I believed to be one of the transient side-effects that I’d read about i.e. “temporary worsening of symptoms”. I believed that eventually it would lift, and sure enough it did, like I said almost literally overnight. There was *no way* I was ever going to act on any of it and I’m not experiencing it any more. Maybe my definition of “suicidality” was melodramatic and flippant, which it wasn’t meant to be.

        I’m happy to stay on them for now as they have definitely made me feel better in the important areas. Surely if they were wrong for me then I’d be feeling much worse..?

        PS in no way are you talking rubbish. You definitely have a future as a counsellor/psychotherapist should you so choose.

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